Featured Image by Negine Jasmine.
Music is quite possibly one of the deepest triggers of nostalgia. Listening to a song that once served as a fleeting favorite can conjure up so many feelings–from happiness, excitement, sad sappy feelings, angst and finally, sometimes, embarrassment. Within all these layers of mushy feelings lies a common thread of nostalgia. Perhaps it’s not a longing feeling for the past, though sometimes it is. More so, I find myself having an immediate sensory reaction to certain songs or albums. Last night, I was driving in my car and felt compelled to listen to the Death Cab for Cutie album, Narrow Stairs. Once “Cath…” started playing, I instinctively remember the summer that I painted my bedroom golden-yellow, cut all my tee shirts into oversized tank tops, dyed my hair fiery red, and slept on my bed in the center of my room as glossy paint dried to the walls surrounding me.
I tend to listen to albums or artists in patterns. I used to be really seasonal about it, too. For example, the Shins were springtime music, Best Coast was always summer, Lou Reed dominated the fall season, and Angel Olsen kept me warm in the winter. As part of this weird pattern, it sometimes feels out of place to listen to certain albums when its too bright and the sun is blistering hot outside. If there is some kind of scientific correlation between weather and music, I would love to know.
More than anything, music takes the form of an ever changing compass for me, pointing me back to old feelings and memories, while giving me an awareness of where I presently stand. When I listened to Death Cab the other night, I was talking to my boyfriend in the car about how incredible it is to love an album so dearly for a specific period of time, not listen to it for years, and then revisit it after so much time has past. Either it sounds unchanged and identical as before (very rare), or it transports me to a former time with a past “me.” Sometimes I think about what it will be like when I am 40 and I am still listening to “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads and if it will remind me of the time that I wore black chunky heels and danced with my boyfriend at a new wave/punk night at a French restaurant in Richmond, Virginia…or if it will take on an entirely new memory.
St. Vincent captures the essence of nostalgia so perfectly in her song “Teenage Talk”:
“That’s just teenage talk / I don’t think the past is better just ’cause it’s cased in glass / protecting us from our now and later.”